Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Potato Production.

Thursday, 20 October 1977

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 300 No. 7

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5.

Mr. Kenny: Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  and Mr. Bruton asked the Minister for Agriculture if he is aware of the serious situation now facing potato producers; and the action he proposes to take to safeguard the substantial investments involved and the long-term future of potato production in this country.

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  I am, of course, aware that there is a surplus of potatoes coming on the market this year—as, indeed, there is all over Western Europe following the last two years of tight supplies and high prices—and I have been discussing this with all the interests concerned.

In the short-term, there are some prospects of the re-opening, by Ceimicí Teoranta, of their starch factory at Labbadish, County Donegal which would reduce the surplus reaching the market, as will the introduction next month of grading standards which would eliminate small and poor quality potatoes.

The long-term future of the potato industry must be safeguarded on a European Community basis and I am continuing to press for an effective common organisation for this market.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Would the Parliamentary Secretary agree that Ceimicí Teoranta are a State body and that in view of the critical situation that has existed for some time he should be a bit more definite as to whether Ceimicí will be reopening their plant?

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  It is fairly certain they will be reopening the plant and that they will be able to take at least 12,000 [953] tons of potatoes. This has been discussed between the IFA, the Irish Potato Marketing Board and Ceimicí Teoranta. They have to get the agreement of the Department of Finance for authority to increase their borrowing power.

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Will the Parliamentary Secretary make it known to the Minister that we have in Tuam a potato plant, part of the Irish Sugar Company concern, and that the full capacity of that plant is not being used? Will he ask the sugar company to take in a greater quantity of potatoes and thus play a major part in easing the situation?

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  I will examine the situation in Tuam and if there is any possibility to take some surplus potatoes there it will be done.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I welcome the news about Ceimicí, but will the Parliamentary Secretary state the price that will be paid for potatoes supplied to them? When will the commitment in paragraph 3 of the agricultural section of the Fianna Fáil election manifesto in relation to the setting up of a potato marketing board be implemented? Will he agree this is an appropriate time to implement it because of the urgency of the situation? Will he agree that the grading scheme is a serious problem and in view of the Minister's reply to me last week that there will be no additional staff costs in implementing the scheme, will the Parliamentary Secretary say how it will be implemented without extra staff?

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  I cannot state the price that may be paid by Ceimicí. That will be a matter for negotiation between the producers and the factory. On the implementation of the policy document, that will be done as soon as possible.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  What about the grading scheme?

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  It is hoped to have it in operation by mid-November.

Mr. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Will the Parliamentary Secretary agree that if ever there is a [954] time to introduce a potato marketing board it is now? We never made promises in an election which we could not keep. Is not this one of the first signs of a chink in Fianna Fáil's manifesto?

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  The Deputy need not have any doubt about Fianna Fáil's policy.

6.

Mr. White: Information on James White  Zoom on James White  asked the Minister for Agriculture if he intends to introduce a floor price for potatoes.

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  The answer to the Deputy's question is no. Apart from the fact that there are more pressing demands on the limited financial resources available it has to be remembered that potato producers received exceptionally high prices in the past two years.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that two years ago we had a floor price of £25 per ton and this year potatoes are being sold at £18 a ton?

Mr. Killilea: Information on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Zoom on Mark Killilea Jnr.  Two years ago they were left to rot on the headland.

Mr. Clinton: Information on Mark A. Clinton  Zoom on Mark A. Clinton  Two years ago a price of £25 per ton was fixed by the Government.

Mr. Hussey: Information on Thomas Hussey  Zoom on Thomas Hussey  I agree with the Deputy, but the Deputy will agree that a floor price in this particular year is not the answer to the overall problem.

Mr. D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  Does the Parliamentary Secretary not consider it absolutely urgent at this stage to fix a floor price for potatoes?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  That question has been asked twice.

Mr. D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  May I have an answer?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I am calling the next question.

Mr. D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  I take it the answer is “No”.


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